The Luncheon Technique – How I Got Fooled Into Handing Out Free Money

By Mark Wiens 2 Comments
Stunning Malaysian Indian Food
Stunning Malaysian Indian Food

I previously explained it as “food drunk,” or that I was “under the influence of food.”

Now I really know.

It was on my very first trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when I ate at a restaurant which I can’t possibly describe as anything less than one of the best restaurants in the world.

After frantically choosing a variety of curries, plates of rice and side dishes, I proceeded to devour everything that was on my table using my hands.

Then I ordered more.

The waiter was a kind man, eager to serve anything I wanted, and happy yet a little frightened to see someone with such an appetite and food passion.

After stuffing myself full of Kuala Lumpur’s best food and taking a moment to relax, I greeted the staff at the restaurant, expressed my ultimate gratitude for such an ambrosial feast and was on my way.

One year later…

I returned about one year later, came back to the same restaurant and was greeted by the same exact waiter.

He remembered me, and was rocking his same big smile.

Malaysian Fish
Malaysian Fish

After helping myself to a few heaping mounds of biryani topped with Indian Malaysian curry, I rushed to my table and began to silently devour the goodness.

It was every bit as amazing as I had remembered, the kind of meal that makes you want to close your eyes and smile.

Midway through my meal, the waiter came to my table.

Where have you been?” he inquired. “I’ve been living in Bangkok,” I quickly replied, mid-bite.

What did you bring me from Thailand,” were the next words from his mouth.

Thinking and chewing are two things I don’t do so well together – I tend to focus in on the food alone and forget about thinking. It was in this confused state of mind that I remembered the 20 Thai Baht notes (smallest bill in Thailand, worth about $0.65) and busted out my wallet.

I handed him one – “for you,” I said.

Thank you very much!” was his reply.

Without having time to think, a flood of other waiters and waitresses (there tends to be a lot of staff at Malaysian restaurants) were soon hovering around my table and in the course of about one minute I had relieved myself of all my remaining 20 Baht notes – I think about 7 in all!

I finished my meal and couldn’t have been more satisfied.

Then I realized I had just willingly, out-of-the-blue, given away 5 bucks (and not to someone needy on the street or for charity)!

What had I done? I was under the influence…

Introducing the “Luncheon Technique”

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, and one of the most fascinating books I’ve read is Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion*, written by a Robert B. Cialdini that teaches at the same University I graduated from (I didn’t know him).

In the middle of the book, my attention was grabbed when he mentioned the “luncheon technique” and its persuasion aspects (obviously my buttons are pushed when anything having to do with food is mentioned).

Coined by psychologist Gregory Razran, the technique is not much more complex than it sounds – purpose your idea or persuasive argument during a scrumptious meal.

(Note: keyword here is during, not before or after the meal, but DURING!)

It struck me, the time in Kuala Lumpur when I handed out free money during my remarkable meal was direct proof of the “luncheon technique!” He had asked me for something during my meal… and because I was so enthralled in my lunch, I couldn’t even think straight.

The thing to remember here is, it’s not that I didn’t want to hand out free money, that’s the fine part – the real fact of the matter is that I did it without even realizing it, completely influenced by the luncheon technique.

And you know what? Sometimes the food is so good, it’s just worth that extra tip!

Have you ever fallen prey to the luncheon technique!?

*It’s an affiliate link, so if you happen to purchase it from Amazon, I will get a small percentage commission. However, this is the  most useful book I’ve read all year.

2 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

  • Tanya

    11 years ago

    Yes, I’ve absolutely fallen prey to the luncheon technique. I remember in the middle of a delicious, $600 meal in Taipei we agreed to wine when we had already decided that we would NOT have wine prior to dinner. The Luncheon Technique is how our $600 meal became a $700 one. Yikes!

  • Paul

    11 years ago

    Hey Mark, call me during lunch tomorrow I have a favor to ask!

    This story is very funny but also pretty serious, especially for you Mark! Hope you have a designated accountant before you start stuffing your face next time.